I love the radio. Always have. Just take a look around my flat. I'd love you to show me a room where there isn't a radio. I'd love you to do that. My worry is you might be slightly up against it. Kitchen: radio. Lounge: radio. Bedroom: two radios. I could go on. Bathroom: radio. Study: radio. Have I left any rooms out? Don't think so. Have I left any radios out? A couple.
So it's a real treat for me that every year or so I get to make a bit of radio. Don't know how it came about. Living with the right PhD student at the right time, I suppose. Him inviting his friend Robbo over on the right evening, I guess. Anyway, one thing led to another and Robbo pulled whatever strings he had access to and before we knew where we were, we were in Cardiff and he was twiddling knobs and taking care of all the tedious production side of things, and I was sat the other side of a metre-thick slab of glass taking care of all the tedious talking-into-a-microphone side of things. I've just got back from my most recent stint in this peculiar work place, and a lot of fun it was, too.
It's a dream come true for me. Ever since I was able to consume entertainment, radio has been one of the main things I've devoured. My dad was a massive fan of radio from its inception and he never missed an opportunity to angle a speaker at his young family. His main poison was obviously Test Match Special, which he drizzled into my ears from day one. My childhood is riddled with all-too-vivid pictures of Richard Hadlee knocking over Graham Gooch's off stump and Viv Richards chewing his gum and smoking balls over stadiums. And yet I never saw any of it. Magic.
It's fun to make radio, too. Unburdened by sets, make-up, windows and glamour, there's really nothing to it. Just two microphones, someone who knows where to angle them (our one was called Cathy), and the certainty that you can spit make-believe into them and it'll come out the other end in glorious Technicolor. There's a simplicity to it. You are painting pictures with words (and also sound effects). In radio, no idea can ever be ruled out just because there isn't the money for it. If you can imagine it, you can get Cathy to record it. The world, the universe, the lot: it's all your oyster. With a piped-in moo, you're in a farm. A carefully-judged engine and you're in a car. Say you're in space, and bang. You are. I love that.
I remember the 1980s, the long car journeys we used to endure to the South of France as a family. My old man's a maniac, so we wouldn't ever stop. He had no interest in things like service stations or weeing. He only had two passions. Going at 70mph for eight-hour chunks, and listening to Tony Hancock. But that was enough for me. It was all so real. Hancock sounding-off about stuff; waddling about the place in his hat. Libraries, aeroplanes, greyhound tracks. My old man chuckling away. The rest of us not far behind. Listening to that stuff was just dreamy.
So I count myself lucky that every couple of years, I can lay down my columnist's quill and take a train to Wales and record some garbage that can be played out into the world. And, if I'm completely honest, I'm looking forward to listening to it back. I've never been one of these people who can't stand the sound of their own voice. I'm all for the sound of my own voice, in fact. Partly because it is very rich and draws you in. But also partly because I like the sensation of thinking, Ha! I'm on the radio.
Which explains the quantity of radios in my flat. I think if I didn't get to make a radio show every couple of years, I might consider losing one or two.
'Tim Key's Late Night Poetry Programme' is on Radio 4, Wednesdays, 11.15pm
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